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Hal Steinbrenner has Japanese star Yusei Kikuchi on Yankees' radar

Yusei Kikuchi of Hanamaki Higashi high school pitches

Yusei Kikuchi of Hanamaki Higashi high school pitches against Nagasaki Nichidai high school during the first round game of Japan's national high school baseball championships at Koshien Stadium in Nishinomiya, western Japan, Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2009.  Photo Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS/Anonymous

ATLANTA — The Yankees’ mission to upgrade their rotation this winter already has linked them to a number of lefthanded starters, and Hal Steinbrenner brought up another option Wednesday in Japanese star Yusei Kikuchi, who is expected to be posted soon by the Seibu Lions.

Kikuchi, 27, is not officially available yet, as Seibu has between Nov. 1 and Dec. 5 to post him. But that didn’t stop Steinbrenner from including him among the “dozens and dozens” of free agents he reviewed with his top officials recently.

“I saw film on him during the pro scouting meetings,” Steinbrenner said at the MLB owners meetings. “We talked about that individual. We’ve always been paying attention to that area of the world -- some unbelievably great players came out of there. So it won’t be any different this year.”

The posting rules have changed since the Yankees landed Masahiro Tanaka in 2014, first paying a $20-million fee for his negotiating rights and then signing him to a seven-year, $155-million contract. For Kikuchi, the release fee would be 20 percent of the first $25 million in his new MLB deal, followed by 17.5 percent of the next $25 million, and 15 percent of anything beyond $50 million.

Kikuchi was 14-4 with a 3.08 ERA for Seibu this season, with 153 strikeouts in 163 2/3 innings.

Hal supports his dad

With George Steinbrenner once again on the Hall of Fame ballot this winter -- for the fourth time -- Hal feels that his father is finally due for enshrinement in Cooperstown.

“I believe he deserves to be in,” Hal said. “I think a lot of other people do too. I think it’s just a matter of time. I’m not completely in tune with what the politics are in this particular year. It may very well happen. But we’ll see. But there’s certainly a lot of people, including a lot of writers, that [think] it’s absolutely a no-brainer at some point.”

New York Sports